Friday, January 02, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Bearcat tenacity spells trouble for Lady Bears

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears dropped their third-straight game at the Beebe Christmas tournament on Tuesday, falling 57-46 to Brookland in the seventh-place game at Badger Arena. Brookland took command quickly, utilizing full-court pressure to force seven Sylvan Hills turnovers.

The Lady Bears had only one true ball handler in senior Jessica Brasfield, and the Lady Bearcats double- and sometimes triple-teamed her at midcourt.

The result was a 19-6 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Lady Bears mounted a comeback in the second. Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis made some adjustments in attacking the Brookland press, and Sylvan Hills pulled to within 28-18 by halftime. The Lady Bears also scored the first four points of the second half to get within 28-22, butthe Brookland girls took over from there.

The Lady Bearcats went on a 15-2 run to take a 43-24 advantage.

Sylvan Hills still didn’t quit working. Storm Ellis and Makayla Smith combined for three 3-pointers and the Lady Bears pulled back to within 9 points late in the fourth quarter.

Smith came off the bench to lead Sylvan Hills with 13 points, 11 of which came in the fourth period. Ellis and Sarah Beckwith each added eight for the Lady Bears. Rachel Gramling scored 16 to lead Brookland while Alexa Thompson scored 14 and Menley Long added 11.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits battle, can’t match WCH

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke boys did all they could to defend their championship in the final of the second annual Goldfish Classic at the Gina Cox Center on Tuesday, but Class 5A Watson Chapel was too long, too athletic and too deep for the Jackrabbits to match up with, and because of that, the Wildcats won the tournament final 69-55.

Both teams entered the championship game with 2-0 records in the Classic, but unlike last year’s tournament final that featured the same two teams, Watson Chapel (12-2) was the clear favorite this time around, and for good reason.

The Wildcats had by far the most depth, skill, length and athleticism of any other team in the Classic, but Lonoke (5-7, 2-3) showed up ready to play.

The two teams traded buckets in the early goings of the first quarter and were tied at 7-7 before Watson Chapel closed the quarter with nine-straight points to lead 16-7.

In the second quarter, the Wildcats led by as much as 13, 20-7, but Lonoke went on an 8-2 run to cut its deficit back to single digits, trailing 22-15. However, Watson Chapel was able to push its lead back to double digits by halftime with the score 32-22.

Lonoke scrapped its way back within single digits of the WC lead in the early goings of the third quarter, but a long 3-pointer by Wildcat sharpshooter Leonard Robinson sparked a big run for the Wildcats, who led 51-33 at the end of the quarter.

Despite being down 18 points at the start of the fourth quarter, Lonoke refused to quit, and the Jackrabbits eventually scratched and clawed their way back within single digits of Watson Chapel’s lead.

Unfortunately for Lonoke, though, it could never get closer than eight points of the Wildcats’ lead, and by the end of the game, Watson Chapel pushed its lead to 16 till Lonoke’s Brenton Bryant scored with two seconds remaining to set the final score.

Even though Lonoke was unable to repeat in the Classic this year, Lonoke coach Dean Campbell has seen his team grow both individually and as a unit since beating Hazen by 12 points in the first game of the tournament last Saturday.

“That’s what these Christmas tournaments are for,” said Campbell. “I really think the last four or five days, from last week till now, I think we’ve grown tremendously.

“I think we’re starting to come together and understand a lot more about who we are and what we’re trying to get accomplished, and each guy knowing what their role is and their place and what they can do.

“We won’t see anybody all year as long and athletic as they (Watson Chapel) are, but that’s why you play these games and get these games in, and hoping that you play somebody that’s going to prepare you for the rest of the conference season.

“There’s no doubt I think they’re helping us to do that. I’m proud of my guys. They didn’t quit. I’m proud of the way they’re progressing, and the good thing is they understand that we still have work to do.”

Lonoke finished the Classic final 18 of 44 from the floor for 41 percent. Watson Chapel was 28 of 57 shooting for 49 percent. The much longer Wildcats outrebounded the Rabbits 34-19, and both teams committed 18 turnovers for the game.

Three different Wildcats scored in double figures with Robinson leading all scorers with 20 points. Brenton and Jawaun Bryant were the only Jackrabbits to score in double figures Tuesday. Brenton Bryant had 17 points and Jawaun Bryant had 11.

Lonoke got to the Classic final by beating fellow 4A-2 Conference member Stuttgart 48-43 Monday at LHS. The win avenged the Rabbits’ loss to the Ricebirds when the two teams met in a conference game earlier this season at Stuttgart.

The Rabbits led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter Monday, and 21-14 at halftime. Lonoke was outscored 17-10 in the third quarter to make it a tie ballgame at the start of the fourth, but the Rabbits outscored the Ricebirds 17-12 in the final frame to seal the win.

Jawaun Bryant led Lonoke in Monday’s game with 19 points. Nick Bates also scored in double figures for Lonoke in that game. He had 13 points.

Lonoke will resume conference play on Tuesday against Newport at home. That game will tip off after the girls’ game, which is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe gets quality win over eStem at tourney

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers picked up their second win of the season on Tuesday, beating eStem Charter 40-33 in the final round of the Beebe First Security Bank/Jeremy Gilliam Christmas Classic at Badger Arena.

Beebe’s offense found a away to score against a 3-2 zone and defended well the entire game to beat the now 10-4 Mets.

“At this point any win is a good one for the Badgers,” said Beebe coach Ryan Marshall. “It was nice to see us finally step up and hit some shots over that zone. That was good for us.”

Marshall exhorted his guards to shoot the ball after they spent most of the first quarter passing up open outside looks. Once they did, the home team quickly got back into the game.

“You wouldn’t think you’d have to tell a kid to shoot the ball these days, but we weren’t wanting to do it. I’m glad we finally did and we knocked them down. Hopefully it will give us a little confidence moving forward.”

The Mets stormed out to an early lead, taking a 10-4 advantage in the first quarter and stretching it to 17-6 before the Badgers began their comeback.

eStem started in a 3-2 zone after Searcy used it to shut down Beebe’s offense in the second half on Monday. But the Badgers finally started hitting shots in the second quarter. Sophomore point guard Chad Brown drained a 3-pointer to make it 17-9.

Landon Davis and Grant Jackson each hit a pair of free throws and Austin Moore sank back-to-back 3-pointers to complete an 11-0 Beebe run and tie the game at 17 by halftime.

The Mets came out in an aggressive man defense to start the second half and it paid quick dividends. Just like in the first quarter, eStem jumped ahead, scoring the first seven points of the second half to take a 24-17 lead. After a Beebe timeout, senior Ty Childress scored three-straight baskets and tacked a free throw onto the last one to pull the Badgers even again with four minutes left in the third quarter.

All three Childress buckets were layups, the first after a defensive rebound and going the length of the court. The last two from cutting to the basket in the half-court offense.

“Ty has had a pretty rough stretch so far this season,” Marshall said. “I was really pleased to see him do that. That’s what you need your seniors to do when you’re down and I hope this gives him some confidence to maybe take on a little more.”

After an eStem turnover, Bradley Worthington got an offensive rebound and putback to give Beebe its first lead of the game with 3:16 left in the third, and the Badgers would never trail again.

eStem’s Michael Calamise tied the score just seconds later with an uncontested layup, but Micah Dubose hit a 10-foot floater to put the Badgers up for good. Beebe took a 33-29 lead into the fourth quarter, and held the Mets to just four points in the final frame.

Beebe scored the first three points of the quarter on three free throws by Moore before Calamise finally put the Mets on the board. eStem then went back to its 3-2 zone and Beebe pulled the ball out and held, where Austin Moore held it underneath his right arm for more than a minute before the Mets finally came out to guard him and switch to man defense.

The Mets got a few stops, but could only muster one more layup by Calamise on the offensive end.

The Badgers held eStem’s Division I prospect RaShawn Langston to just nine points, and only two in the second half.

“He’s a talented player but really I think we’ve defended pretty well all season,” Marshall said of his squad. “We struggle to score and so you have to defend well.”

Calamise led eStem with 11 points and Moore led the Badgers with 14.

On Monday Harding Academy beat eStem while the Badgers lost 35-25 to Searcy after leading that game 21-16 at halftime.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers first at Beebe

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers brought home the first-place trophy from the Beebe First Security Bank/Jeremy Gilliam Christmas tournament on Tuesday, and in doing so, sent an emotionally crumbling Riverview squad home 39 seconds before time actually expired.

The Panthers won the game 60-37, but the final score was a bit deceiving.

Four minutes into the third quarter, Cabot’s lead was just 30-26. When Panther forward Hunter Southerland got a run-out dunk, it marked the beginning of the end for the Raiders. Cabot dominated the rest of the way, and when it became clear to the 16-3 Raiders that they were going to lose the game, they also lost their composure.

And they seemed to target their frustration toward Cabot junior guard Tyler Hill. In the final two minutes of the game, Riverview was called for two technical fouls and two flagrant fouls, and three of the four were the result of Hill being thrown or knocked to the floor.

“They sure seemed to be after him,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “And I don’t get that because Tyler’s a good kid. He’s not the type that’s going to be involved in stuff like that.”

After the fourth dead ball foul, and second flagrant foul that left Hill on his back at midcourt, the officials had seen enough. They called the halt to the action with 39 seconds left on the clock and awarded Cabot the win.

The Panthers, 8-2, almost blew it open early, racing out to a 15-6 lead, but Riverview scored six-straight to end the first quarter and pull within three.

The same thing happened in the second quarter, with Cabot building a lead only to see the Raiders come back. But the Class 4A power had no answer for Cabot’s last run, led by guard Jarrod Barnes. The sophomore scored 18 of his career-high 30 points in the second half.

Hunter Southerland added 12 for Cabot while point guard Deshawn Lee led Riverview with 15 points.

While Hill was the target late in the game, starting forward Garrett Rowe was the casualty. Rowe left the game early in the third quarter after suffering a shoulder injury. He and Riverview’s Landon Ramsey were chasing a loose ball when Ramsey landed on top of Rowe.

Rowe suffered some ligament damage and is expected to be out two to three weeks.

The first week of Rowe’s absence will just be from practice. The Panthers do not play again until hosting North Little Rock on Jan. 9 in the 7A/6A East Conference opener.

EDITORIAL >> Liquor petitions

Jacksonville has gathered about 4,000 signatures and needs only 400 more to do away with its outdated liquor laws and annually inject about $600,000 into the city’s economy once restaurants start selling alcohol and grocery and convenience stores can stock beer and wine on their shelves.

Surprisingly, about 2,700 signatures are still needed in Sherwood, where a whopping $10 million could be added to the city’s economy every year.

Tax revenues would be substantial as sales at businesses increase in those communities. Till then, many residents in dry areas will continue to drive to North Little Rock to dine at the numerous name-brand restaurants along Hwy. 67/167.

Organizers had hoped Arkansas voters would overturn the state’s strict liquor laws in November, but they overwhelmingly rejected the initiative, although Jacksonville voted for the measure and Shewood narrowly defeated the statewide proposal.

Supporters of expanding liquor sales in Pulaski County point out that the change will not mean more liquor stores in the area because the county permits are already taken — one liquor store per 5,000 people. But liquor stores that have been banished to the city limits could move to downtown Jacksonville, for example, so long as they comply with local zoning regulations.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, which has been leading the drive, hopes to attract some corporate restaurant chains to town as well as expand sales opportunities for restaurants already here. Tax-starved city officials are also seeing dollar signs at a time when revenue sources are drying up as online retailers are siphoning off sales tax.

Sherwood is hoping to expand the already-saturated restaurant row on Hwy. 67/167 with a few big names to Hwy. 107 in Gravel Ridge, where a Harps grocery store is set to open later this year and could sell beer and wine.

The change will remake the area’s culture somewhat, but as The Leader has pointed out, DUI rates are lower in Missouri, Louisiana and other places that have looser liquor laws.

Local residents can sign petitions at the Jacksonville and Sherwood chamber offices and help their communities modernize and create jobs.

EDITORIAL >> Making jails self-sufficient

Jacksonville officials know when to hold them and when to fold them. After a bitter, year-long showdown with Pulaski County officials over the city’s share to fund the county jail, the Jacksonville City Council caved in and agreed to budget $201,000 a year for the right to send local prisoners to Pulaski County.

Jacksonville paid $195,000 last year, but this year’s increase is minuscule when you consider that the county threatened to charge the city $500,000 a year if there was no contract.

If Jacksonville hadn’t signed the agreement, the quorum court would have charged the city a per day fee of $245 per new prisoner for the first day and $44 for each day after that. That would have added up to about $500,000 in 2015.

Bottom line: Jacksonville will pay $1 million over five years.

Jacksonville was the only holdout in a five-city agreement to help defray the cost of operating the county jail. The quorum court has determined the payments that each city in the county needs to come up with for housing city prisoners, but Jacksonville had insisted it was being charged too much.

Jails will remain overcrowded until the state builds a new $100 million prison, which county prosecutors have requested. That may not happen for years as the new governor and legislature are expected to cut costs rather than increase spending.

Meanwhile, Lonoke County is making progress on bringing costs down at the jail. The Lonoke County Quorum Court has agreed to pay the jail $40 a day per inmate the county uses for labor.

“The money doesn’t go to the inmates, but to the jail to cover the cost of housing the inmates,” Sheriff John Staley said. The Lonoke facility was housing 146 prisoners at year’s end.

The county has used inmate labor for years to clear rights of way, pick up trash and fill potholes. But the jail has never been reimbursed. “So this is a good deal for us,” he said.

Staley said inmates are not required to go out and work for the county.

“It’s volunteer, but most don’t want to sit in their cells the entire day, so they volunteer, and many have good skills that we put to use, like carpentry and concrete work.”

He said all the work the inmates do, whether for the county or for the jail itself, is on public property. At the rate of $40 a day, and using about four inmates a day, the jail should pick up between $40,000 and $50,000 next year.

Pulaski County officials could look to their counterparts in Lonoke County and elsewhere in finding ways to get inmates to help pay their own way when they’re behind bars.

Training them for a better job when they’re released would also pay dividends as they become taxpaying citizens and repay their debt to society.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville operates on tight budget

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s $20.6 million budget approved for 2015 maintains all city services without any layoffs.

But there are no raises, no cost-of-living increases, no tuition reimbursement and no clothing allowance for any of the city’s employees.

“It’s the toughest budget we’ve had to work with,” explained Mayor Gary Fletcher.

“We will have to look for new sources of revenue and be creative with our spending,” he said.

“It’s not just a Jacksonville situation,” the mayor noted, “All area cities, including Little Rock, are facing a tough year.”

Fletcher added that he’s not happy with a lot of the cuts that had to be made and promised to revisit the budget later in 2015. “I’m optimistic that things will turn out, but we have to budget like it won’t.”

Besides the general budget, which the council approved at its Monday meeting, aldermen also approved the street, sanitation and EMS funds.

Finance Director Cheryl Erkel told the council that the city expects to see about a 2 percent increase in county taxes, but other taxes look to be flat.

“We will see new revenue sources from court fines that will help offset the annual jail cost of $201,000. We are also expecting Windstream (a landline phone company) to pay up on franchise fees from 2012 to 2015,” she said.

Erkel said the fire department has applied for a number of grants that should help them with equipment needs. If the grants come through, the fire department will be able to purchase 40 air packs, 80 air bottles and 63 face pieces.

Even though employees are not getting any raises at this point, their portion of health insurance will not go up.

The city is estimating that city sales tax collections in 2015 will come in at $13.5 million, up about $100,000 from 2014. Court fines and utility franchise fees also look to be up in 2015. But licensing and permits, intergovernmental transfers and service charges are all expected to be down.

When it comes to expenses, everyone is working with less.

The general government section of the budget, which includes the mayor’s office and most city hall departments, will operate with a $3.29 million budget in 2015 — down almost $500,000 from 2014.

The judicial side of the city is expected to spend $526,629, down about $11,000 from 2014.

Public works has a 2015 budget of $4.06 million, down $400,000 from 2014.

Public safety’s budget is also down about $500,000, going from $13.29 million in 2014 to $12.77 million this year.

Salaries and related expenses chew up most of the budget at $15.18 million, followed by contractual services at $2.88 million.

The street fund is budgeted at $2.23 million for 2015, up $60,000. Erkel said the city is expecting an increase in state tax turnback money to cover the slightly higher budget.

The sanitation fund’s revenue is expected to be $1.82 million, about $5,000 less than expenditures. Erkel pointed out that the sanitation and EMS funds are enterprise funds, meaning they aren’t required to have balanced budgets.

The EMS fund is expecting revenues of $1.4 million, but has allocated just $1.1 million for expenses so far.

TOP STORY >> New law protects minors’ privacy

A new state law protects the identities of children who are in motor vehicles involved in traffic accidents.

Act 1229, sponsored by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), went into effect Friday. It amends the previous laws that set out what must be listed in reports on traffic accidents that are filled out by law enforcement officers.

The list includes the names and addresses of drivers and occupants of motor vehicles involved in accidents.

Under Act 1229, the names of minors under 18 years of age will be redacted from accident reports. However, their names will be available to the parents of passengers and the insurance companies that cover people involved in accidents.

“My foremost intention was to protect children’s identities, as we do when they are brought into the legal system in other areas,” Williams said.
“I was asked to sponsor the bill a few years ago, after a school bus accident in Cabot.

“There were no serious injuries, but the kids received letters from lawyers and even a chiropractor. Parents and school officials contacted me about it, and I was glad to help,” Williams said.

“Children will be shielded from unsolicited calls and contacts,” Williams said. “Protecting the legal identities of children is critical in this day and age, when social media and the Internet can spread a person’s vital information across the globe within a few seconds.”

The act was approved during the 2013 regular session and takes effect on Jan. 1.

Williams said he postponed the effective date of the act so that law enforcement agencies would have time to change their computer systems. Act 1229 was passed by both chambers of the legislature without a dissenting vote.

Williams will be chairman of the Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs and a member of the Senate Education Committee.

The President Pro Tem of the Senate will be Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), who has appointed Williams as one of the four assistant President Pro Temps.

Williams represents Senate District 29, which includes parts of Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski and White counties.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits win after early lull

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke overcame a poor first half to beat Class 2A Hazen by the final score of 60-48 in the first round of the second annual Goldfish Classic on Saturday at the Gina Cox Center.

Lonoke (4-6, 2-3), who won last year’s tournament; granted, with an entirely different team, struggled throughout the first half, but especially in the first quarter. The Jackrabbits missed their first five shots of the game and went just 1 for 13 from the floor in the opening quarter.

As a result of the poor shooting, Hazen (1-1), who because of advancing to the state finals in football had played just one game this season prior to Saturday, led 11-3 at the end of the first quarter.

“That’s kind of been our deal all year long,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell of his team’s slow start, “and some of that didn’t change throughout the whole game. We still got to the rim and took shots that we wanted to take, shots that we practice, and they’re still not going down at a pace as quick as we like.”

Lonoke did a better job of hitting its shots in the second quarter, but still trailed by five at halftime, with the score 29-24. In the second half, Lonoke made 9 of 29 shots, but the biggest difference was at the free-throw line.

Neither team shot well from the stripe, but the Jackrabbits earned far more trips to the line than the Hornets did, especially in the second half. Lonoke made 18 of 35 free-throw attempts in quarters three and four, while Hazen made just 1 of 7 attempts in that time.

Lonoke made several key free throws in the final minutes of the game that helped seal the win – something Campbell was happy to see.

“I thought we did a really good job of stepping up and hitting free throws,” Campbell said, “which we haven’t done. I’m proud of them for that. We took advantage of it.”

The Jackrabbits opened the second half with a 15-4 run to take a 39-33 lead. Junior guard Jawaun Bryant led that charge and set that margin with an inside bucket at the 2:30 mark of the third quarter, which forced Hazen coach Jesse McCoy to call timeout.

After the timeout, Hazen scored six-straight to tie the game at 33, but Lonoke took a 41-39 lead into the fourth quarter on a fast-break layup by Bryant with one second remaining.

The score was knotted up at 43-43 early in the fourth, but Lonoke began to take over from there. The Jackrabbits went on an 11-2 run to lead 54-45, and the highlight of the game took place during that run.

At the midway point of the quarter, Lonoke junior guard Justin Meadows grabbed a rebound after a missed Hazen free throw. Meadows then pushed the ball up the floor and finished at the other end with a posterizing dunk over two Hazen defenders, which ignited the home crowd and gave Lonoke a 51-45 lead.

Lonoke grabbed its first double-digit lead with 55.7 seconds to play on a pair of free throws by Haven Hunter that made the score 57-47. The Rabbits led by as much as 13 before Hazen sank a free throw with four seconds to play, setting the final score.

Lonoke finished the game 17 of 54 from the floor for 31 percent. Hazen made 18 of 42 shots for 43 percent. At the free-throw line, the Rabbits made 25 of 45 shots for 56 percent. Hazen went 10 for 24 from the stripe for 42 percent.

The Hornets outrebounded the Rabbits 33-28, but Lonoke won the turnover battle 14-27.

Bryant led all scorers with 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Meadows and Isaac Toney also scored in double figures for Lonoke. Meadows had 11 points and Toney had 10.

Lonoke played fellow 4A-2 Conference member Stuttgart in the semifinals of the tournament Monday night after deadlines, and the Rabbits played their final game of the tournament yesterday. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Mets too much for Carlisle

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle girls did all they could to hang with Class 4A eStem Charter in the first round of the Goldfish Classic at Lonoke High School on Saturday, but the Lady Mets had too much depth and skill for the Class 2A Lady Bison to keep up with, and as a result, eStem won 61-44.

Carlisle (7-4, 6-0) had won six-straight conference games coming into the Goldfish Classic, but in the first quarter of Saturday’s game, the Lady Bison were sluggish on both ends of the floor.

Jumping out to an 8-0 lead, eStem played like last year’s Class 3A state champions. Carlisle leading scorer Kylie Warren scored the first Lady Bison point with a free throw at the 3:27 mark of the opening quarter, and added the team’s only field goal of the quarter, a 3-pointer, with 46 seconds left.

Warren’s three was also the final bucket of the first quarter, which cut the Lady Mets’ lead to 12-6. Warren scored the first three points of the second quarter, all from the free-throw line, and Carlisle got within two of eStem’s lead, trailing 13-11.

However, the Lady Bison run led to fatigue, and sophomore starter Kayla Golleher fouled out with 3:46 left in the first half. The Lady Mets were able to capitalize, and by halftime, eStem led 31-18.

The Lady Mets pushed their lead to 15 80 seconds into the second half with a driving layup by junior guard Gia Hayes, which made the score 33-18. Carlisle did, however, start the second half shooting well.

The Lady Bison made their first four shots from the floor and made five of their first six. Near the three-minute mark of the third quarter, Carlisle got back within single digits of eStem’s lead on an Elex McClain putback that made the score 38-30.

eStem, though, ended the quarter with a 5-0 run that was capped with an and-1 by Hayes with 1:50 remaining. That set the third quarter margin at 43-30.

Warren got Carlisle within 11 of the Lady Mets’ lead, 45-34, with a pair of free throws with 6:50 left to play, but that was as close as the Lady Bison would get the rest of the way.

By that point, the Lady Bison were absolutely worn out, physically, and eStem, just like it did at the end of the first half, was able to pull away as the game progressed.

Hayes pushed the Lady Mets’ lead to 20 with a driving lay-in as the game came to a close. That made the score 61-41, and Carlisle set the final score with a 3-pointer by Nicquira Burnett with three seconds remaining.

Carlisle finished the game 14 of 36 from the floor for 39 percent. Conversely, eStem was 23 of 63 from the floor for 37 percent. The Lady Mets outrebounded the Lady Bison 32-21, and eStem committed 22 turnovers to Carlisle’s 27.

From the free-throw line, Carlisle finished the game 12 of 25 for 48 percent. eStem was 11 of 15 from the stripe for 73 percent.

Warren led all scorers with 24 points. She also had four rebounds, three steals and two blocks. McClain and Molli Weems each had six points for Carlisle. McClain added eight rebounds. Burnett had five points for Carlisle and point guard Peyton Hitchings had three.

Three different players scored in double figures for eStem. Hayes led the Lady Mets with 22 points and five steals. Mariah Adams had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and teammate Knya Dailey had 11 points.

Carlisle played Des Arc after deadlines on Monday in the consolation round of the Goldfish Classic, and the Lady Bison played their final game of the tournament yesterday. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers survive against SH ladies

Leader sports editor

The first round of the Beebe First Security Bank/Steve Gilliam Christmas Tournament wasn’t an easy one for the Lady Badgers on Saturday. The host team found itself in a tussle throughout with 5A-Central Conference mate Sylvan Hills, but pulled out a win with seven-straight points in the final 97 seconds to prevail 42-41 over the Lady Bears.

“We just got lucky,” said Beebe coach Greg Richey. “We just didn’t play very well offensively. We struggled shooting the ball tonight, but we found a way. I told the girls, hey, I still believe in you. And they went out and found a way.”

All four quarters ended with a one-point margin. Sylvan Hills led by one at the end of the first and third, and Beebe after the second and fourth. The Lady Bears took a 41-35 lead with 2:09 remaining on a pair of free throws by senior point guard Jessica Brasfield.

Sylvan Hills got a defensive stop when Beebe point guard Taylor McGraw missed a midrange jumper and Sylvan Hills’ Alana Canady got the rebound. But Canady’s outlet pass was deflected by Beebe’s Taylor Harris, who also chased down the loose ball. She passed inside to Ashlyn Johnson who was fouled by Canady – her fifth.

Johnson hit both ends of her 1-and-1 to make it 41-37 with 1:37 remaining. The Lady Bears turned it over again, but Beebe returned the favor, giving Sylvan Hills possession with 1:04 left.

Sylvan Hills’ Jahnay Duncan then lobbed a pass too high and soft against Beebe’s press, and Johnson picked it off. She drove to the basket on the ensuing possession, scored and was fouled with 36 seconds remaining. She made the free throw to make it 41-40.

Harris then got another steal for Beebe and was fouled. She also made both ends of her 1-and-1 with 29 seconds to go to set the final margin.

With the lead, the Lady Badgers sank back into a 1-2-1 and allowed Sylvan Hills’ Sarah Beckwith to fire a three, but it was off the mark and bounced out of bounds with nine seconds left, but it wasn’t quite over yet.

Duncan got a steal on Beebe’s next possession and passed to Brasfield, who got a clean look at a layup and missed, got the offensive rebound and missed again as the buzzer sounded.

“I know we were supposed to be an easy win for them in their home tournament, so you do take a little bit of confidence away from the game,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “But then again, we had that game and we just didn’t close it out. We turned it over three or four right in a row after we got a little lead, and we basically just gave it away. That’s what’s so disappointing. We had it, and we gave it away.”

Beebe’s biggest lead came early in the second quarter when it scored the first five points to take a 17-13 lead. Sylvan Hills led by six twice, the first time coming early on a 7-0 run to start the third quarter for a 27-21 advantage.

The Lady Bears led 32-38 late in the third and had three possessions to extend it, but missed point blank layups on two of those possessions and turned it over on the other.

Beebe answered with a 5-0 run, all five by Harris, who hit a 3-pointer and two free throws.

Sylvan Hills also struggled from the floor, finishing 13 of 47 shooting, and just 8 of 33 from two-point range. Beebe was 13 of 49 overall while 10 of 33 from two-point range. Sylvan Hills outrebounded Beebe 30-26. The Lady Badgers were 13 of 21 from the foul line while Sylvan Hills went 10 of 17.

Neither team took very good care of the ball either. Sylvan Hills had 22 turnovers to 20 for Beebe. Johnson led the Lady Badgers (3-7) with 12 points while Harris added 11. Brasfield and sophomore shooter Storm Ellis led Sylvan Hills (3-6) with 12 points apiece.

Look for details of the final two rounds of the tournament in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot pulls away from eStem

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ basketball team broke a dangerous trend in the fourth quarter to pull out a 52-43 victory over eStem Charter in the first round of the Beebe First Security Bank/Steve Gilliam Christmas Tournament on Saturday.

The Panthers spent the first half of the first three quarters building a nice lead, and the second half of each quarter giving it away. That is until the fourth quarter, when they put together a 9-0 run in a two-minute stretch of the final three minutes to secure the victory.

The Panthers seemed to be on the verge of taking over the game several times, but eStem always answered, twice in the final minute of the quarter.

But the tone was set on the game’s first possession. The Mets won the jump but couldn’t find an open shot. Cabot defended for 58 seconds before Garrett Rowe stole an entry pass to the elbow.

“That showed us that they weren’t just going to blow by us with the ball, which I was a little worried about to be honest with you,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “I knew they had a good record and when I saw them on film, I was concerned.”

Cabot pushed out to an 11-4 lead with a 9-0 run in the first quarter, but eStem’s Trevor Clark came offthe bench to score five in a row to close the period and pull his squad to within two points by quarter’s end.

Markel Hubbard then opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer to put the Mets up 12-11. The two teams traded baskets and stops for a few minutes before the Panthers put together another run, this one 9-0 that made it 27-18 with 1:21 left in the first half.

Panther forward Hunter Southerland capped the run with a fast break, two-handed slam that forced eStem coach Jeremy Brown to call timeout.

Clark did his work in the waning moments of the second quarter as well, scoring and getting to the line with 12 seconds left in the quarter to make it 27-21. He also got a steal on the ensuing possession but wasn’t able to score.

Cabot sophomore Jarrod Barnes sparked the Panthers early in the third quarter. Barnes lobbed a perfect alley-oop pass to Jared Dixon over the top of eStem’s 3-2 defense.

Dixon finished the play with a two-handed dunk to make it 31-25 Cabot. Barnes then stole the ball in the backcourt and delivered a nifty pass to Bobby Joe Duncan for a 33-25 Cabot lead that forced eStem’s fourth timeout.

Barnes then gave it all back with two-consecutive turnovers on Cabot’s next two possessions, and the Mets pulled to within four points quickly. Two guard RaShawn Langston added to the run with an old-fashioned three-point play after a turnover by Jake Ferguson that made it 33-32 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.

“We have to develop a better killer instinct,” Bridges said. “We got up eight or nine a few times and kept letting them back in with silly mistakes. That’s frustrating, but we bounced back. We need to be better than that from this point forward.”

Clark completed the Mets’ run by hitting 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game with 1:25 left in the third. Duncan then hit a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in the frame to give the Panthers a three-point lead heading into the final quarter.

Cabot’s Tyler Hill then opened the fourth with his own 3-pointer for a six-point Cabot lead, but eStem scored the next six to tie the game with 5:22 remaining.

Hill got a putback and Duncan sank a running floater to give Cabot a 43-39 lead and force eStem’s final timeout with 4:23 remaining in the game. Langston scored out of the break for the Mets, but the Panthers would score the next nine-straight to seal the victory.

Southerland started the run with a pair of free throws. After eStem failed to convert a shot attempt and a putback attempt, Ferguson got the rebound and was fouled. He hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 2:38 for a six-point Cabot lead. The Mets then threw the ball away and Southerland found Logan Gilbertson cutting to the basket for an easy layup and a 49-41 lead.

After an eStem miss, Gilbertson got the rebound and was fouled. He also hit both ends of a 1-and-1 trip to the line to give the Panthers their biggest lead of the game at 51-41 with 90 seconds left to play.

Langston was called for a player control foul on the ensuing possession and Brown was hit with a technical for running onto the court to challenge the call. Southerland made 1 of 2 technical free throws for an 11-point Cabot lead with 1:12 remaining.

Langston scored as time expired to set the final margin. He led all scorers and rebounders with 21 points and eight boards, while Clark came off the bench to add 13 for the Mets. Southerland led Cabot with 11 points, and was the only Panther in double figures, though eight different Panthers scored.

“Garrett Rowe did not have a very good game, and if you’ve seen us you know he’s been a big leader for us,” Bridges said. “So one thing I was very proud of was that we got this win largely without him. They’re a good team. (Langston) was the best player on the floor tonight, but we played good team basketball, and that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful.”

TOP STORY >> Area officials hope for stellar new year

Leader staff writer

Only a few elected officials in The Leader’s coverage area make New Year’s resolutions, but most who were interviewed want to see projects completed or started and are hoping that 2015 will be a stellar year.

And then there was the tongue-in-cheek response of state Rep.-elect Tim Lemons (R- Cabot).

He said his New Year’s resolution is “to drop three sizes in my waist, or grow 6 inches in height.”

Lemons continued, “There are 174 steps from my parking spot to the House chamber at the Capitol. Maybe the three-size reduction is possible.”

He joked, “The height? Probably not.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley are also hoping to get healthier.

Fletcher said, “It’s my intention this next year to eat better and to exercise and spend more time with my family than what I do.”

Staley said, “I am going to make more time for my family and kids. As most everyone is trying to do, I am also going to make time to work out and get healthier.”

The sheriff added, “I am going to continue to work hard for the citizens of Lonoke County and continue to serve them in a professional manner. My primary goal is to continue to be tough on crime and keep the citizens informed about what goes on in our community.”

Ward Mayor Art Brooke said he wants to do more in 2015 by following through with some big ideas like sewer- system improvements, paving more streets and “beefing up” the city’s parks and recreation department — possibly with help from the one-cent sales tax increase passed by voters in November.

The mayor also said he would continue to work diligently for Ward residents. “I give them 100 percent, that’s the best thing I can give them, that’s what I do.”

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman, state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain and state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

But Hillman said, in her sights for 2015, is beginning the construction of a new public library.

In November, voters passed a temporary 1.3-mill increase that will fund a $6 million facility. For the owners of a $150,000 home, the increase equates to about $39 more than the 50.8-mill property tax they were paying before.

The increase would also be a hike of about $13 for every $10,000 in accessed value of a home or personal property. Accessed value is about 20 percent of what a house or personal property is worth.

Hillman told The Leader on Monday that the city attorney is researching whether Sherwood should hire someone to consult it on the bond project.

She said last week, “We anticipate moving forward on our new library (in 2015). That’s exciting. Hopefully, by this time next year, we’ll be well on our way.”

English said her focus is and has been, for a while, to develop workforce-training programs.

She wants to see Arkansas families have the tools they need to make better wages that will improve their lives and the economy.

About New Year’s resolutions, Cypert said, “If you don’t make them, you can’t break them.”

City projects that are set for completion in 2015 include:

 The new $2.6 million, 23,000-square-foot public library in the old Knight’s grocery store on West Main Street.

 The $13.5 million sports and aquatics complex on Hwy. 321.

 Expansion of the Veterans Park Community Center to include a space for events and a safe room.

 A safe and lighted sidewalk with a pedestrian bridge to Magness Creek Elementary School from the neighborhood to its north.

 Diamond Creek drainage improvements.

 Several street overlays.

Numerous other projects will be ongoing throughout 2015 but are expected to be finished in 2016 or later.

Chamberlain said she wants to see Austin’s plans to build a new city hall get underway. The mayor said she would like to see some streets — many in the Saddlecreek neighborhood — fixed in 2015.

Williams said his New Year’s resolution is to not make any resolutions. But the senator’s hopes for 2015 include a “good positive session for the legislature” and that “we focus more on the middle income families and give them as much help as we can because they’re the ones struggling the most.”

TOP STORY >> Staying sober if you are driving

Leader staff writer

Make a plan and have a designated driver tonight, local police said this week when asked for safety tips to avoid drunken collisions and jail time over the New Year’s holiday.

Lt. Jamie Michaels of the Sherwood Police Department said, “Don’t even take one drink and think that you’re OK.”

Sgt. Richard Betterton with the Jacksonville Police Department added that the force will be participating in the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign during the holiday.

He said, “Hopefully, we can get (drunk drivers) off the street before they kill somebody or have an accident.”

Betterton also suggests people stay where they’re going instead of going from one event to another.

And the plan Michaels advises might include calling a taxi when the partying ends.

Rose Holley of A-Plus Cab Company in Jacksonville, the only taxi service in the city that is in business this week, said patrons could even pre-schedule a cab to pick them up at a certain time.

The company is open 24/7 year-round, she said.

Although this is her first year working there on New Year’s Eve, Holley told The Leader that A-Plus CabCompany is prepared by having three or four cars operating rather than its typical one or two.

The company services all of central Arkansas with the exception of Little Rock. It can’t pick people up in Little Rock, per city ordinance, unless one of its taxis drops the group from another city off there.

And Little Rock cab companies can’t pick someone up from Jacksonville, but can drop them off there.

A-Plus Cab Company charges $5 per stop inside city limits.

A one-way ride from a bar outside city limits to a Jacksonville address, or vice versa, is $10 plus $3 for each additional passenger.

The company runs a special all year long for round trips to local liquor stores, which cost $10 and $3 per person.

An increased flat rate applies to all other trips, including those to and from Little Rock, which Holley said are more expensive.

Contact A-Plus Cab Company at 501-241-0750 for more information.

Airmen have another option, the Little Rock Air Force Base’s Airmen Against Drunk Driving that provides rides from volunteers to military personnel whose plans to get home safely have fallen through.

Call AADD at 501-987-2233 to request a ride home, which can be on or off base.

Another option, for those attending New Year’s Eve events in Little Rock, is popular share-riding service Uber.

Sherwood and Jacksonville are the closest local cities to the company’s most reliable coverage area, which encompasses most of the state’s capital and North Little Rock. Lonoke County cities are even further out.

Uber spokeswoman Taylor Bennett wrote in an email to The Leader, “While requesting a ride as far out as Jacksonville or Sherwood may be difficult given it’s not in the core service area, riders can certainly use Uber to get dropped off there.”

People can request a ride through the Uber smartphone application, which provides fare estimates and a price for the ride up front.

The cost varies based on demand, according to a video provided by Bennett. Prices go up when ride requests exceed the number of available drivers to encourage more drivers to become available. But they go back down when the number of drivers available matches how many ride requests there are.

The app can also alert riders when prices drop to the normal rate. Hundreds of drivers are available in the Little Rock area, Bennett added.

She continued, “In an ongoing effort to tackle drunk driving, we are partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and donating $1 for every ride with the code MADDNYE on New Year’s Eve.”

Bennett also said driver partners are being counseled on safety measures like accepting only the number of passengers their cars have seatbelts for, pulling up to the correct side of the street so that riders don’t have to cross it in high-traffic or dark areas and to report any incidents or confusion immediately.

TOP STORY >> Top 10 news stories of the year

Compiled by RICK KRON

(Editor’s note: This is the last in a four-part series looking back at 2014 as reported in The Leader.)

In 2014, The Leader published 104 issues containing more than 1,000 pages of news with stories that ranged from the ordinary to the extraordinary. These 10 topics, presented here in no particular order, are highlights of the most important news of the year as determined by the newspaper staff.


Probably the biggest piece of news for 2014 is that Jacksonville now has its own school district, a 40-year dream and fight for the city. Although still tethered to Pulaski County Special School District, the new district is on the move to becoming its own full-fledged operating district within the next two years.

The formation of the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, which was a Top 10 story of 2013, hit a fever pitch in mid-January. And the momentum never slowed down. By December, a school board had been picked, an interim superintendent selected and a couple of board meetings held.

An election to see if residents would support the newly proposed district made that a reality in the middle of January after a fairness hearing in which U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. overruled all objections and accepted the proposed desegregation agreement crafted by officials and attorneys for the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts, the state Education Department and the Joshua Intervenors, a group of black PCSSD students and parents.

This opened the door for the Jacksonville district.

“It’s a great day for the kids in Jacksonville,” Daniel Gray, spokesman for the group seeking the new district, said in January after Marshall accepted the negotiated desegregation agreement.

City administrator Jim Durham said, “This is the best news I’ve heard about this town bar none.

“I can see Jacksonville rivaling Cabot with our schools,” Durham said, “and a demand for new housing.”

The court settlement ends desegregation payments from the state to the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts after the 2017-18 school year.

Currently, the state pays those districts about $65 million a year, a total of about $1.2 billion since payments began, according to Deputy Attorney General Scott Richardson.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess, whom Marshall quoted or cited several times during his own remarks before approving the agreement, called the Jacksonville detachment “a win-win situation.”

PCSSD is high on the state wealth index, meaning it would receive almost no state matching funds to build or fix schools, while Jacksonville is much lower and the state would contribute 50 percent to 60 percent of that cost for qualifying buildings.

That means a $90 million building program to bring area schools into the 21stCentury would cost the new district only about $45 million, with the state picking up the balance.

The 2014-15 school year would be transitional and Jacksonville-North Pulaski will hopefully be independent by the 2015-16 school year. But it may take another year, as assets and debt would have to be equitably divided between the two districts. Other questions needing to be answered, for instance, are who gets which school buses and how many? How will teachers and staff be hired or divided? How much of the remaining desegregation money from the state will go to a new district?

In September, residents voted overwhelmingly — 95 percent — for the new district. The final vote was 3,767-218 in favor the new district.

Jerry Guess, PCSSD superintendent, said he was happy for Jacksonville. “I supported this idea for a long time,” Guess told The Leader. “It will be a great benefit to Jacksonville in the long run. A lot of details need to be worked out.”

The city took the vote results to the state and to the federal judge for final approval.

A panel of area officials and state lawmakers narrowed down the list of 52 possible school board candidates to seven. Norris Cain, Daniel Gray, Ron McDaniel, Carol Miles, Richard Moss, Robert Price and LaConda Watson are the appointed interim board.

It took the state Board of Education less than 15 minutes in early November, after the judge’s approval, to unanimously create the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District and approve the seven-member interim school board.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher compared the seven appointed board members to the original seven U.S. astronauts, saying, “This is our space program.”

The state board’s order also stipulated that the new district would continue under the administration of PCSSD during a transition period of up to two years, with all revenues continuing to accrue to PCSSD, which would also bear all costs.

The interim board quickly agreed to hire former PCSSD superintendent Bobby Lester to be the district’s interim leader and to work closely with state- appointed PCSSD superintendent Guess on separating the districts.

With the formation of the new district, Little Rock Air Force Base officials said it would make 20 acres available for a new elementary school to replace the decrepit Arnold Drive Elementary already on the base and possibly Tolleson Elementary, just outside the base, as well as the use of another 300 acres if the new district wants to build a new high school campus north of the current North Pulaski High School.


Besides the historic Jacksonville district vote in September, the November election had all five area mayors on the hot seat battling challengers and a tax issue on the Sherwood ballots as to whether or not to approve a tax for a new library.

All mayors won re-election and Sherwood approved the tax for the library.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher defeated former Police Chief Gary Sipes and Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman withstood a challenge from two other candidates, Don Berry and Doris Anderson. Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert beat back a challenge by one-time mayor Mickey (Stubby) Stumbaugh; Lonoke Mayor Wayne McGee is getting another term, just getting past Jim Bailey, and Ward Mayor Art Brooke got another term.

In Jacksonville, the race between incumbent Fletcher and his former police chief was one of the closest in decades — 56 percent to 44 percent – and the topics of the gun range, economic development and transparency left the city divided. Even though the candidates themselves were never disrespectful toward each other, their supporters were — from name calling to threats.

Once the election ended, there was apparent fallout as the city cut ties with its longtime out-of-state economic developer. And three civil service commissioners were told to resign because they were active participants in the election. Two commissioners were Sipes supporters and one was a Fletcher supporter. Two have since resigned from the commission.

Many of the races in Lonoke, Cabot and Lonoke County were decided in the May primaries, as was one alderman race in Jacksonville.


The year will go down in the history books as one of the top five coldest years. Icy, snowy weather in January and February caused area schools to be out more days than they had been in decades.

Plus a vicious tornado skirted The Leader’s coverage area, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Summer was one of the coolest on record. Normally, there are 30 days between June 1 and Aug. 30 where the temperature hits 95 degrees or more. But, in 2014, just eight days hit that mark in the local area. Jacksonville recorded its lowest low-temperature average in history in July at 66.1. The summer was also 5 inches wetter than normal.

January gave warning signs to a cool year as a “polar vortex” settled into the region.

The polar blast and freezing wind plummeted low temperatures into the single digits, causing power outages and water pipes to freeze and burst.

Beebe experienced the most outages in The Leader’s coverage area, with close to 2,000 customers in the dark.

Electric companies weren’t the only ones working overtime during the unusually cold weather.

Charles Culpepper of Master Plumbing in Jacksonville said, “Water pipes have been freezing and busting.” At a time of the year when business is usually slow, Culpepper said he was getting lots of calls about frozen and burst pipes.

Snow and ice in February closed schools and caused numerous wrecks.

Then winter hit again in early March during National Severe Weather Week.

The storms brought lightening, thunder, rain, freezing rain, hail, sleet, ice, snow and cold, cold winds to the area.

The mess caused officials to cancel school in Pulaski, Lonoke and White counties.

The high temperature of 27 degrees the first Monday in March was the lowest high ever recorded in March, breaking a record of 30 degrees from 1965.

A National Weather Service-trained storm spotter broadcasted over the Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Network that there were “bodies everywhere” after a late April tornado struck Vilonia, Mayflower and El Paso.

Two of the 11 dead in Vilonia were young boys who had recently moved from Sherwood to Vilonia. “They were very active in our baseball program,” Sherwood Alderman Tim McMinn said at a council meeting after the tornadoes hit, asking for prayers and help for the family.

The young boys were Cameron and Tyler Smith, ages 8 and 7, respectively. They lived on Cody Lane in Vilonia. Sanders said the boys’ parents, Daniel and April, were severely injured in the tornado and were taken to different hospitals in Little Rock.

According to officials, the family followed all the proper emergency procedures. “They were hunkered down, but there is nothing left of their home except a concrete slab,” said a family friend.

Overall, the tornado killed 15 Arkansans. Eleven people died in Faulkner County. There were three fatalities in Pulaski County and one in El Paso.

According to a preliminary report released by the National Weather Service, the devastating tornado was at least an EF4, meaning it had 166-200 mph winds.

President Barack Obama flew into LRAFB. He is the first president since Bill Clinton to visit the storm-damaged areas.

In July, the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office and others were honored and praised for their response and help in the aftermath of the tornado.

For the year, 20 tornadoes hit the state, killing 17. Four died from high winds and two from lightning strikes.


The air base always makes the Top 10 list on the strength of its economic impact to central Arkansas. In 2014, that impact was just shy of $1 billion. But there is so much more to the base: the people, the missions, new planes, new commanders and new construction.

In March, word was that the base was strengthening its position as the primary C-130 base in the world, with many older C-130s from around the country either decommissioned or reassigned at LRAFB and 10 more state-of-the-art C-130Js once slated for Pope Field at Fort Bragg, N.C., set to come to LRAFB.

Those C-130Js, currently assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, were headed for Pope. But now it appears they will be assigned to the 22nd Air Force, Detachment 1, a reserve force being activated at Little Rock, according Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

“Ten aircraft are enough for a squadron,” Pryor said. “This is breaking news.

“Little Rock is a center of excellence on (C-130 transport), and, if it holds with 10 additional C-130Js, that’s a very good thing,” the senator said.

“My sense is that someone at the Pentagon looked and said the most efficient thing is to base those planes at Little Rock,” Pryor said.

Military officials said early in the year that active duty LRAFB pilots might be flying only the state-of-the-art C-130Js by the end of September and the Pentagon had restarted the previously discontinued program to modernize the legacy C-130Hs with new, digital avionics, communications and navigation equipment.

Little Rock Air Force Base had about 85 C-130H/J models assigned to the base as of March 7.

“We have approximately 50 C-130H models and can confirm 31 C-130J models,” said Arlo Taylor, a public affairs spokesman. At the end of December, the number of C-130Js parked at the base numbered 36, and the H models were awaiting decommissioning.

With the arrival of the additional aircraft, replacement work was started on the base runway. Set to be finished in April 2017, the work will cost almost $108 million.

The runway is over 50 years old and is developing substantial amounts of Foreign Object Damage (FOD) potential, primarily from joint spalls and cracked slabs. The combination of the poor soils, high water table and keyway slab joints enable new problems to develop soon after repairs are made. The busy runway traffic, coupled with the underlying drainage issues, is the primary cause of the damage.

The 12,000-foot runway, which has been repeatedly patched over the years, will be replaced, half at a time, leaving the base with 6,000 feet to take off and land — twice the length required for C-130s.

The project will raise runway elevations and modify surrounding terrain features to minimize the number of airfield waivers and obstructions. It will resize the runway from 200-foot wide to 150-foot wide. However, the length will remain 12,000 feet. The project includes the replacement of associated runway lighting and navigational aids.

Base airmen flew in support of numerous missions during the year, including a Senegal mission to battle Ebola.

About 20 airmen and two C-130s deployed toward the end of the year to join the war on Ebola. They joined more airmen and C-130s from Dyess AFB, Texas, to establish the 787th Air Expeditionary Squadron and to fly humanitarian supplies into Liberia as part of Operation United Assistance, the mission to fight Ebola in West Africa. More LRAFB personnel are expected to join in the mission.

The 19th Airlift Wing was awarded, late in the year, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service from Aug. 1, 2012, through July 31, 2014.

The 19th AW is the world’s largest C-130 wing and base in the military and is comprised of four groups, 21 squadrons and 17 staff agencies.

“I am extremely proud of you, your hard work and all of the amazing things you accomplish every day,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “I’m thrilled that many outside of our organization have noticed your extraordinary efforts as well.”

About the only bad news to hit the base in 2014 was the announcement of no open house and air show this year, according to Lt. Amanda Porter, public affairs specialist.

“We will focus our efforts toward a 2015 open house and redouble our efforts to secure a major aerial demonstration team,” Porter said.

The Pentagon pared down the number of events significantly in light of new budget realities.

“A 2014 open house was proposed but never confirmed. The base only explored the possibility. However, there were no military aerial demonstration teams available us,” Porter said. “We are focusing our efforts toward a tentative 2015 open house.”


The Jacksonville $3.2 million shooting sports complex on 160 acres near Loop and Graham roads had a soft opening in January and was in full swing with a lot of fanfare by May.

But, by then, complaints had hit about the noise level, and some planned activities were canceled. A sound study was ordered, and it became a focal point in the mayoral election.

Arkansas leads the nation in shooting sports participants, thanks largely to the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program (AYSSP), which is an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission program. More than
7,000 students participate each year. Teams are made up of participants from public and private schools, 4-H and other community organizations.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation planned to use the range for activities and tournaments. The youth tournaments alone were expected to bring in more than $4 million annually to the area.

But the shooting sports complex postponed its newly formed shooting league in late March after receiving noise complaints from neighboring residents.

“It is like World War III broke loose. We’re not happy about it,” Bonnie Smith said.

During the first weekend of May, the range attracted 1,040 people who shot an estimated 52,000 rounds that brought in $20,000 to the city, according to Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Director Kevin House. But noise was still an issue.

Except for the noise complaints, the opening of the shooting complex has been as successful as the city hoped, according to Jim Durham, Jacksonville’s director of administration. “We brought in 1,040 families to our city. They stayed in our hotels, ate in our restaurants and learned about Jacksonville,” he said.

In response to complaints, the range had already canceled night shooting, which kept expensive stadium lights off.

But area homeowners are growing impatient. Brian Hagewood, who owns Southern Oaks Country Club in Fox-wood and also lives in Foxwood Estates, where homes are about a mile away from the complex’s shooting positions, was frustrated with the noise coming from the firing range.

“Our subdivision has completely changed because of the noise this range is creating. We invested a great deal of money to build on a five-acre lot in Foxwood Estates. We never in a million years thought the city would put a shooting range in our backyard,” he said.

Residents looked at possible lawsuits, but the law protects the city from suits over noise.

Former Police Chief Gary Sipes, who lives in the neighborhood complaining about the noises, filed to run for mayor with the noise as one of his issues.

To determine what could be done, the city hired a sound engineer in late June to conduct a $10,000 study. The engineer spent a day taking sound readings from seven locations and promised to have the study completed in about 10 days, but it was four months before the city got the report back showing that noises levels were within legal limits at all locations but the facility’s parking lot. The city is still looking at ways to dampen the noise in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Along with the noise, finances became an issue with many claiming the range was losing the city $250,000 that could have been spent elsewhere.

The complex was built with a mix of private and public dollars. The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation promised $2 million, but had only provided the city with $150,000 by mid-year. The city’s advertising and promotions commission had budgeted about $400,000 toward the project, and the city took out a $3 million short-term line of credit to cover the costs.

In November, the foundation vowed to completely pay off the promised $2 million, allowing the city to substantially pay down on its loan for the project.

By mid-October, the city’s finance department showed that the range had an actual profit of $550 through the end of August.

Laura Collie, the assistant finance director who reviewed all the figures, said, “Our figures are correct.” Former Jacksonville Finance Director Paul Mushrush also combed through the numbers and agreed.


Cabot passed a sales tax in 2014 to cover a multitude of major projects to be built in the next few years.

Sherwood saw numerous new businesses open up during the year, as did Beebe.

Jacksonville announced an $18 million medical center deal toward the end of the year.

In Cabot, the parks and recreation commission ap-proved the $5.3 million bid from CWR Construction in late May for the Cabot Sports Complex on Hwy. 321 and Allman/Bevis softball field.

The commission still has to bid out the water park, field lighting, parking lot and the concession stand.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the $13.5 million sports and aquatic complex off Hwy. 321 near Holland Bottoms Farm was held in late June. The $5.3 million sports complex is part of the overall project.

Parks Director John Crow said, “This facility will not only meet the immediate needs of the community, but also those of an area that will continue to grow as we improve our facilities and services around the city.”

The sports complex will have nine baseball fields, two football fields, playgrounds, batting cages, pavilions and a walking track, lighting and a concession stand. It will open in fall 2015.

The water park will have a four-lane swimming pool, a slide pool, a walk-in pool, a lazy winding river, a bathhouse, a concession stand and outdoor private party area. It should open in summer 2015.

Money for the ballpark and water park projects comes from the one-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2013. The tax also supports a $42 million bond issue for sewer improvements, a new freeway interchange, a new library and drainage work.

Sherwood saw its share of growth in 2014 with a medical call center bringing 250 new jobs, Ace Hardware and a Mapco service station and convenience opening up during the year. And a groundbreaking for Whit Davis lumber was held. Those are just some of the 14 economic projects that were finished or started in Sherwood in 2014.

There was also a new CVS Pharmacy, an animal hospital, Telcoe Federal Credit Union and Subway. Harps Food Stores announced it would open a new facility in Gravel Ridge.

Jacksonville city officials announced in October their plan to bring an $18 million medical complex to the city near North Metro.

Construction of a three-building outpatient ambulatory care campus across the street from North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville will start in 2015, according to Michael Arvin, managing director of Alliance Strategic Health Advisors.

The campus will be built on a vacant 9.25 acres with the potential of expanding to a maximum of 13 acres, he said. Construction could take between 12 and 16 months.

The preliminary plan includes a 30,000-square-foot specialty clinic that may cost $6 million; a 40,000- to 60,000-square foot medical office building with space for primary care physicians, specialty physicians, dentists, social workers, a pharmacy, therapy services and nutritionists that may cost $12 million; accommodations for outpatient services; and the ability to develop a freestanding outpatient surgery center that can deliver high-quality, same-day surgery.

Beebe is in the midst of a commercial building boom. The new Walmart is in full swing, and the city has received plans for a new AutoZone parts store.

The city has also received site plans for The Shoppes at Beebe. The shopping center will have a Dollar Tree, Hibbett Sports, a Pizza Hut WingStreet restaurant, a fitness center and other businesses.

And City Attorney Barrett Rogers is moving his law office to a new business complex on Dewitt Henry Drive. It will be home to the Beebe Flower Shop, Merle Norman cosmetic store and Sunset Breeze sandwich restaurant.

Another shopping center, Shadow Center, near the highway is planned, too. That deal closed in April.

“We are an excellent trade area with the population and access to all the highways. Retail and commercial developers are seeing that it’s beneficial to be here, and we are growing in housing too,” Mayor Mike Robertson said, adding that there are about 200 new homes in the works.


The Cabot School District’s newest building, the $22 million Freshman Academy for ninth graders, opened on Aug. 18 — the first day of school.

Many students who picked up their schedules with their parents were wide-eyed and opened-mouthed as they walked into the school.

The campus layout is similar to Cabot High School. It has four buildings with 73 classrooms, a meeting room, a media center with adjoining computer lab, a career, agriculture and construction center and a gym.

“The decision to develop a specialized program in a state- of-the-art facility for our freshmen will have a significant and very positive impact on many students for many years to come,” Thurman said.

There are Smart TVs connected to the Internet that can show a teacher’s computer desktop to students. The kids can show their work on the TVs while using tablets, iPads and Chromebook laptop computers.

North Pulaski High School Senior Jesse Ringgold was honored in February as one of the school’s first National Merit Scholarship finalists.

School counselor Debra Stanchak said Ringgold being a National Merit finalist gave North Pulaski High School a big sense of pride.

“It puts North Pulaski on the map. We’re proud of Jesse. He is a hard working kid. He is humble, easy going and extremely bright,” Stanchak said.

Senior Katie McGraw was a National Merit Scholarship finalist for Beebe High School. She is the second Beebe student to earn the achievement in three years.

School counselor Connie Sheren said, “We are proud. Katie is an excellent student. It is not something we have every year.”

Cabot High School had 10 National Merit Scholarship finalists, double the number from 2013.

Aaron Randolph, director of gifted and advance placement programs for the school district, said the 2014 National Merit finalists for Cabot was one of the largest groups in the past 12 years.

Cabot High School’s National Merit finalists are seniors Anna Applegate, Matthew Bilberry, Benjamin Brannon, Robert Brockel, Kyle Cox, Mark Howard, Grant Reed, Reid Simpson, Kegan Skinner and Caleb Southard.

On Jan. 10, area schools were awarded a total of $425,000 for excellence in student performance, academic growth and graduation rates (for high schools).

The Cabot School District had five schools receive monetary awards. Searcy had four, and Beebe had one.

Cabot Middle School North and its counterpart, Cabot Middle School South, were recognized for being in the top 10 percent of state schools in student performance and academic growth. Cabot North was awarded $77, 935, and Cabot South got $71,222.

Cabot’s Mountain Springs Elementary was also in the top 10 percent and received $39,083.

Two other Cabot schools finished in the top 20 percent. They were Cabot Junior High North, receiving $55, 231, and Magness Creek Elementary, getting $16,326.

Searcy had two schools in the top 10 percent and two schools in the top 20 percent.

Ahlf Junior High School and Westside elementary were in the top 10 percent, receiving $57,262 and $41,867, respectively.

In the top 20 percent were McRae Elementary with $20, 403 and Southwest Middle School with $46,188.

Beebe Elementary School was in the top 20 percent and received $17,980.

Overall, the state gave out about $7 million to more than 200 state schools.

According to results released in July, all the third graders at Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot scored proficient or advanced on the math portion of the state-mandated Benchmark exams given to third through eighth graders in April.

Those same third graders also blew past the state average in literacy with 93 percent of them scoring proficient or advanced.

Mountain Springs, Magness Creek and Northside, all in Cabot, also did well, along with third graders from England.

At the fourth grade level, Arnold Drive Elementary was on top in the Pulaski County Special School District and the area with a proficiency rate of 91 percent in math and 95 percent in literacy. Cabot’s Mountain Springs, Stagecoach, Northside and Southside also did well.

All the Arnold Drive Elementary fifth graders who took the literacy portion of the Benchmark exam scored advanced — one of the few groups of fifth graders in the state to do so.

Warren Dupree fifth graders jumped 30 points on the math portion, going from 39 percent proficient or advanced in 2013 to 69 percent this year, moving them above their district’s and the state average.

The sixth graders at Jacksonville Lighthouse’s Flightline Upper Academy did much better than state averages in both math and literacy, scoring 94 percent in math and 91 percent in literacy. Based on benchmark scores, the academy has been rated in the top 15 percent of middle schools in the state, according to

Cabot students also continue to do well with the fifth graders at Cabot Middle School South scoring 94 percent or better in literacy. Sixth graders at Cabot Middle School North had a 90 percent proficiency rate in math.


At Jacksonville Middle School, only about four out of 10 students scored proficient or better on the annual Benchmark exams. The school’s eighth graders were the worst in the Pulaski County Special School District with only 28 percent scoring proficient or advanced. Almost 40 percent of the students scored below basic.

Like Jacksonville, neither the seventh nor the eighth graders at England reached the state average.

In November, according to the state, all Jacksonville and Sherwood schools except two need improvement — some more than others.

The only two schools in the Jacksonville-Sherwood area to make achieving were the Jacksonville Lighthouse College Prep Academy and the Flightline Upper Academy.

The rest of the PCSSD campuses in Sherwood and Jacksonville ranked in the bottom three categories, and the district itself was rated as “needs improvement” by the state.

Oakbrooke, Arnold Drive, Pinewood, Cato, Sylvan Hills, Sherwood, Tolleson, Clinton, Warren Dupree and Bayou Meto (all elementary schools), Northwood, Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville middle schools and North Pulaski High School were listed as “needs improvement” schools.

Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter elementary and middle schools, along with Lisa Academy North’s elementary, middle and high school campuses, were also in the needs improvement category.

Jacksonville High School and Murrell Taylor Elementary were labeled “needs improvement focus” schools

Harris Elementary was listed as a “needs improvement priority” school.

According to the same rankings, Lonoke had no achieving schools and neither did Beebe. All Lonoke and Beebe schools need improvement, according to the state.

And so did every school in Searcy but one. Westside Elementary has been declared achieving by the state.

Cabot also had just one achieving school — only Southside Elementary.

The Leader was the first to report that a murderer who was serving a life sentence without parole was installing a wall mat at the Cabot Junior High North gym in September as part of a prison work-release program.

The killer, Glenn Martin Green, had been part of a factory and repair program at the Tucker Unit since 1990.

Green, 60, is a former Air Force sergeant who, in 1974, kidnapped 18-year-old Helen Lynette Spencer at Little Rock Air Force Base. Then he raped, tortured and killed her outside Jacksonville.

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman confirmed that Green was working at the school gym.

“We purchase our safety mats for gyms from ACI (Arkansas Correctional Industries),” Thurman wrote in an email. “Evidently, most schools use ACI and we’ve used them in the past.”

Cabot has stopped the practice of allowing inmates to work on school property.


Large portions of both Sherwood and Jacksonville are considered “dry,” meaning no alcohol may be sold or served unless the business has a private club permit.

These dry areas are a result of township votes from about 60 years ago. About 50 percent of Sherwood and 90 percent of Jacksonville is dry.

Because the townships no longer exist, a state law was passed allowing for a new vote as long as 38 percent of the registered voters in the affected areas sign a petition to put the issue on the ballot. That worked out to about 4,200 signatures for Sherwood and 4,400 for Jacksonville.

A study by the University of Arkansas figures Sherwood is losing out on about $10 million a year in local sales because of its dry section.

Sherwood Chamber of Commerce executive director Marcia Cook said Kroger had considered building a store in the Gravel Ridge area several years ago but didn’t because it couldn’t sell alcohol there. The chain remodeled its store on JFK Boulevard in North Little Rock instead, she noted.

Sherwood and Jacksonville hired, through a shared contract, a firm to help gather the signatures it needed.

But Sherwood’s effort was put on hold as a state drive was started to allow alcohol sales and service anywhere in the state. The city halted its effort to not confuse voters and backed the state effort.

Enough signatures were collected to put the statewide measure on the November ballot. Jacksonville voters favored the proposed law in the general election, but statewide totals soundingly defeated it. In Sherwood, 51 percent voted against the statewide initiative.

Sherwood is still getting everything ready to move forward now, while Amy Mattison with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce told The Leader about 400 more signatures are needed to bring the issue to a local vote.


The area saw only two homicides in 2014. One in occurred in northern Pulaski County back in March, and the other one happened in Jacksonville less than two weeks ago.

Arthur Lockhart Jr., 35, was charged in the March stabbing death of Steven Thomas Miller, 28, outside The Hangar, a north Pulaski County bar.

Miller had supposedly refereed to Lockhart’s wife using the “n” word.

Lockhart and his wife, Tere Rowshell Lockhart, 35, were both charged with second-degree murder. Both have police records.

Two witnesses told police they saw Miller and Tere Lockhart arguing before the stabbing. Three witnesses said they saw Arthur Lockhart attack Miller.

One of the witnesses told police she saw Tere Lockhart push the victim’s face and hit him with heel of a boot she was holding.

There was blood on the boot when an officer found it, according to the report.

Miller was lying on the ground, unresponsive with a faint heartbeat and shallow breathing. According to the report, there were two puncture wounds in his abdomen and one puncture wound on the left side of his neck.

Miller was taken to North Metro Medical Center, where he died about an hour later.

The second incident occurred when an argument broke out among friends at a party.

Brandon Ethridge, 26, was shot Dec. 21 at a party on Noble Road that turned bad. Police responding to a “shots fired” call stopped a vehicle carrying the victim as the car was on its way to the hospital. Ethridge was taken via Med Flight to Baptist Hospital, where he was treated for multiple gunshot wounds and later died in surgery.

The shooter has been identified as Christopher Leggett, 27, of Jacksonville, but no charges have been filed as police are trying to determine if the shooting was a case of self-defense like some witnesses have said.

A local woman was killed in the summer of 2013, but arrests in that gruesome murder weren’t made until late January 2014.

Dennis Harrington, 42, the boyfriend of a woman reported missing from the Woodlawn area between Beebe and Lonoke was charged in January with capital murder and abuse of a corpse. The victim was 36-year-old Rebecca Lauer.

Harrington had been in prison for violating parole since he was arrested in September for kidnapping and domestic battery involving Lauer.

The warrant for his arrest on the latest charge showed that statements from witnesses and evidence collected at his home indicated that Harrington killed Lauer on the evening of July 21 and then, with the help of a friend, burned her body on a pile of tires behind his home.

His friend, Steve Boulanger, 37, was charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution and abuse of a corpse because he allegedly lied to law officials and helped to burn the body.